November 9, 2008 6:59 PM
Bird's the word again in Atlanta
Figures I'd end up at a place called the "Fowl Line" on Sunday to watch a resurgent bunch of dirty birds -- a.k.a. the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons, under first-year head coach Mike Smith and rookie starting quarterback Matt Ryan, looked impressive in beating the New Orleans Saints 34-20 at the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta, which hasn't lost a home game this season (4-0) is in the midst of a remarkable turnaround from last year's 4-12 finish. It's remarkable considering the dark cloud that hovered over the franchise last year when popular quarterback Michael Vick was convicted of charges related to dog fighting.
The Falcons, at 6-3, are the next opponent for the Broncos. Denver has had its troubles on the road in recent seasons playing against teams with above-.500 records.
Since 2005, Denver has gone 14-14 on the road. That includes a mark of 4-8 away from home in games against teams with above-.500 records, 1-6 since 2006.
The Broncos' most recent road win against an above-.500 opponent was Sept. 24, 2006, 17-7 at New England.
Last week Denver matched its total for road wins in 2007 (two) with a 34-30 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
Denver, with Jay Cutler at quarterback, has gone 5-9 on the road -- but has yet to win a road game against an above-.500 team.
The Falcons appear to be a team playing with confidence, poise and enthusiasm. All that aside, the injury-riddled Broncos can't afford to spend the day bird-watching in the Georgia Dome.
Say what you want about the subpar level of play within the AFC West this season. The San Diego Chargers, at 4-5 with three of their next four games at home, could overtake Denver before month's end.
The Broncos have held sole possession of first place in the division since the first game of the season. They're one of nine teams in the AFC with a record of 5-4 or better -- but the only team in that group with a sub-.500 record in games played within the AFC.
It doesn't matter that the Falcons are a non-conference opponent. The Broncos need a win badly on Sunday.